Our father Abba John said, 'The saints resemble the trees of paradise laden with the fruits of life which, in their glory and the blessings they give, are of many kinds, through the saving spring of the Holy Spirit, which waters them all'.
-From Becoming Fire: Through the Year with the Desert Fathers and Mothers
Happy All Saints Day! Today we celebrate the faithful saints of God, living and dead. This feast is such a big deal to the church that we even get to "transfer" it to Sunday so that we can all celebrate it together on our primary day of worship.
We raise our hearts and spirits to remember today and Sunday the saints who have gone before us, laden with the fruit of the Holy Spirit. And also we raise our eyes to recognize ourselves as among this same "cloud of witnesses." We too are saints of God. We too are laden with fruit. Will we let ourselves acknowledge that?
When you look at yourself...in your mind, in the mirror, through the eyes of another person...do you know how laden with the fruit of the Holy Spirit you are? Do you see the blessings you bear? The blessings that your church, family, and neighbors are so thankful for?
Perhaps I have written this to you before, but it bears remembering again that the first words of the Father to the Son at his baptism were, "You are my beloved, with you I am well pleased." That is the same Father who looks upon each of us, and sees us as saints; beloved, pleasing. What is your favorite fruit among all those "many kinds" you bear? Which of your gifts do you know best and love most?
In a related expression of gratitude and fruitfulness, we had our "Consecration Sunday" offering of pledges this past Sunday, and I would be remiss if I did not share a celebration of that harvest as well. We had a joyful service blessed by the words of guest preacher the Rev. Colin Chapman from Londonderry, and then feasted in the Great Hall.
When the numbers we tabulated and announced, we heard that half of those who pledged last year had been present that very day to pledge again, and 90% had raised their pledge. And we had 5 brand new pledges. And most of all, my heart was moved by the spirit in the room when those figures were announced, because it seemed to me that people were happy to hear the numbers, but that the numbers were just icing on the cake after the gratitude-feast we'd all enjoyed together. Amen again!
We are, of course, still hoping to gather in many more gratitude-gifts from all who couldn't be here in person Sunday, to embody and enrich our Gospel life through St. Andrew's. But truly, the source of these gifts is remembering, on this All Saints Day, and every day, that we ourselves are laden with the fruit of the Holy Spirit. Beloved personally. Saints of God.